New Biofuel Passes Another Test

Farmer Iron

Isobutanol-gasoline blend performs well in one tough test - small engines.

Published on: October 28, 2011

We've been covering the company Gevo, a Colorado-based firm that bought an ethanol plant in Luverne, Minn., and is converting it to a different type of biofuel - isobutanol. The biofuel has a higher energy rating than ethanol, can be pipelined and also has added value in the chemical market.

This week, the company announced small engine test results where it was tested against a blend of ethanol and gasoline.

Working with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and Briggs & Stratton, Gevo test blends of the biofuel and gasoline. Small engines are a tough test platform because they can be more finicky than complex motor vehicle engines (Briggs, please do not write, I know how much engineering goes into those engines). Ethanol blends have long performed well in small engine applications, but you can make isobutanol with corn and it has other properties that may make it more desirable when it's possible to produce at commercial levels.

In the comparison, the isobutanol blend worked best at a 12.5% content level. This is a drop in fuel that requires no flex-fuel engines, special blender pumps or pipelines. Gevo announced some other test results as well, including the following details:

* No engine or performance issues were found while running on an isobutanol blend.

* Horsepower and torque levels remained the same

* Equivalent or better performance than E10 at temperatures ranging from 40 degrees F to 120 degrees F

* No significant change in hydrocarbon or nitrogen oxide levels in emissions.

* And isobutanol does not absorb water like ethanol, which may make it better suited for small engines which often are put into out-of-season storage.

It's an interesting milestone as Gevo works to bring isobutanol onstream as a commercially viable product. You'll be hearing more about isobutanol in the future. For more information about Gevo, visit their website www.gevo.com.